Based on the 1956 Japanese film ‘The Seven Samurai’, ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is an action packed western. The genre saw its zenith during the early to late 20th century, with cinema making stars of silver screen cowboys like John Wayne. Its popularity has petered out since the 90’s with only a few making many box office dollars. Taking its cue from the well-known 1960 version with Yul Brynner and company, ‘The Magnificent Seven’ shows there is still life in the western genre as gun-slingers take aim at viewer’s imaginations.
Rose Krick, a town in the 1870’s, is under the heavy handed control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Tired of his vile ways, the residents enlist the help of seven outlaws, including Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) and Josh (Chris Pratt). Paying them top dollar for protection, the citizens hope to be rid of the crime plaguing their community. The seven outlaws quickly integrate themselves into the fray as bullets swiftly fly in the battle for a town’s soul.
Antoine Fuqua directs as if he’s a boy in a toy store. Clearly a fan of the Western genre, he grasps the many possibilities. Whilst some clichés creep in, Fuqua’s flair for pacing and filming action make it seem fresh. That’s a good achievement considering ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is yet another remake. What Fuqua does is to immerse himself into the strongly written characters and situations. His enthusiasm clearly comes across as the actors and startling cinematography do justice to the story.
‘The Magnificent Seven’ excels in being an action spectacle but also as an enjoyable block-buster. It knows it won’t win many awards for originality and so instead goes full throttle in creating genuine tension with very hiss-able villains. The performers match their roles well with all having a grand time re-creating the western films of yore. Their character’s personal dynamics are expressed well, making for an interesting backdrop from the explosive hijinks.
If you don’t grumble too much about it being a remake, then ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is entertaining viewing. On its own merits it has a consistent high-quality in all areas most other recent films lack. It’s escapist nonsense of esteemed calibre sure to leave audiences breathless by its furious finale.
Rating out of 10: 8
Director Oliver Stone is a notorious cinematic trouble-maker. Helming films like ‘JFK’, ‘Natural Born Killers’, ‘Nixon’ and ‘W’, his penchant for stirring pots is well known. Whatever his agenda, his movies have been fascinating with the questions posed lingering. ‘Snowden’ is the latest enabling audience’s brains to tick. Having much in common with its independently minded subject, Stone successfully teases out the intrigue following Snowden with which he would certainly relate.
An employee of the American CIA, Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a hard worker moving up the ranks. Gradually disillusioned with what he sees, he decides to leak sensitive security information to a major British newspaper. Revealing many secret global surveillance programs with ties to the highest levels of government, Snowden’s actions make him a wanted man. Events spiral out of control with his life in peril from those angered at his treasonous actions.
Whether you agree with Snowden’s actions or not, the film effectively explores why he did them. ‘Snowden’ shows how his ethical moral compass was shaken by the dubious politics involved in surveillance and military operations. Resulting in death and loss of privacy, the ways of high ranking employers needled Snowden’s sense of personal right and wrong. Although we’re seeing just one side of the argument, Stone knows how to tell a compelling narrative to allow the viewer to understand events.
None of this would work without some fine performances. Gordon-Levitt adds to his solid thespian credentials as a man torn between duty to his country and his beliefs. You feel the conflicting emotions via Gordon-Levitt’s acting, making it easy to become involved. Whilst occasionally Stone directs with heavy handedness making the pace slacken, he injects passion into the story. Helped by a strong ensemble cast with a continually tense atmosphere, he delivers one of his better films of recent times.
‘Snowden’ will no doubt be as controversial as Stone’s other works. His reputation as a silver screen ratbag is still intact with his latest making Snowden an unusual hero. It’s an interesting movie deftly venturing into the ways of government shenanigans where truth is often not what it seems.
Rating out of 10: 7